Neural population coding of sound level adapts to stimulus statistics

Isabel Dean*, Nicol S. Harper, David McAlpine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

382 Citations (Scopus)


Mammals can hear sounds extending over a vast range of sound levels with remarkable accuracy. How auditory neurons code sound level over such a range is unclear; firing rates of individual neurons increase with sound level over only a very limited portion of the full range of hearing. We show that neurons in the auditory midbrain of the guinea pig adjust their responses to the mean, variance and more complex statistics of sound level distributions. We demonstrate that these adjustments improve the accuracy of the neural population code close to the region of most commonly occurring sound levels. This extends the range of sound levels that can be accurately encoded, fine-tuning hearing to the local acoustic environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1684-1689
Number of pages6
JournalNature Neuroscience
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005
Externally publishedYes


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